While the NBA season is postponed I have had a lot of time to think about the what-ifs and fantasize trades that I think might be successful and fun for all fans of the league. The Philadelphia 76ers have risen from the depths of their 10–72 season in 2015–16 and established themselves as a consistent contender in the Eastern Conference. They have not been able to get over the championship hump yet and it looked like there was some regression in their play this past season. Although we may never be able to see how the 2020 season turns out for Philadelphia, I think we can all agree it did not look like an NBA Finals was in the cards. So I think a change in personnel could be in order for the 76ers to finally scale that hump. That would mean choosing between PG Ben Simmons and C Joel Embiid, the two pillars of their rebuild process cannot coexist if the 76ers want to win a championship. They are both so talented, but their games do not complement one another. Whether it’s because of Simmons’ inability to knock down long-distance shots and spread the floor for Embiid, or Embiid’s offensive inconsistency and constant clogging of Simmons driving lanes, their playstyles clash. It also doesn’t help that Brett Brown can’t figure out how to coach their playstyles to flow together, although he was doing a better job splitting their minutes to maximize their abilities. A coach shouldn’t have to split his superstars’ minutes apart to make a team more successful. So I think its time to choose between them. In today’s NBA, shot creation, speed, and floor spacing are crucial; paint scoring and post-play are becoming obsolete. That’s why I would choose to keep Simmons, but the value for Embiid in the trade market might not be very high. He is arguably a top-5 player when healthy, but that’s the key, health is not a certainty with Embiid. Not to mention, we have seen the value of good centers drop significantly in the NBA. Just this past season, all-star center, Andre Drummond, who averages 18 points and 15 rebounds, was traded for two second-rounders and a bag of balls (sorry John Henson). The Rockets also had to give up a first pick and Clint Capela, a good defender and screen and roller, just for Robert Covington, whose numbers are worse than Capela’s.
I’d like to think there are a few centers that are still highly valued in today’s NBA (Embiid, Nikola Jokic, Anthony Davis, and Karl-Anthony Towns to name a few). So here is my Embiid trade that would benefit the Sixers. They give Embiid and PG Shake Milton to the Washington Wizards, in exchange for SG Bradley Beal and PF Davis Bertans. I think this trade could benefit both teams, but it is better for Philly. By acquiring Beal — a 30ppg scorer, whose scoring fundamentals I constantly rave about — the Sixers would unlock Ben Simmons’ full potential because the floor would be open for Simmons to run the fast break and facilitate. Being a proven scorer, Beal would take over the primary scoring duties and handle the load in crunch time. People also forget about Tobias Harris, although he is overpaid, he is a proven scorer in the NBA. He was averaging 19 ppg on 47 % shooting this season and would a very good third option on this team. Not to mention adding Bertans, a 6’10” knockdown 3-pt shooter. Although Beal has not tried on defense since 2018, I don’t think he has forgotten how to stay in front of somebody and Simmons, an elite defender will guard the best player on opponents’ teams.
On the other side of the deal, the Wizards would be receiving a generational talent in Emiid, who could play alongside John Wall (if he ever returns). Although they get the worse side of the deal, I still think they could benefit from this. They were one of the worst teams in the league defensively this season. Adding Embiid would give them a force on the defensive side of the ball and a top-5 talent on offense. The downside for them is Embiid’s injury issues could cut his career short. If those injuries became an issue they would be stuck with his max contract and be in a similar situation like their current one with John Wall’s injury.
Now it’s not all positive for Philly either, it is very difficult to justify trading Joel Embiid to the ruthless Philly fans, who adore the big man and owe him everything for rebuilding their team. Not to mention, if he stayed healthy Philly would be giving up arguably the best center in the NBA and someone who could be a generational talent for the next decade. Should they be willing to take that risk? My answer would be yes because Embiid alongside Simmons has not been the right formula for the Sixers playoff success, it is time for them to say goodbye to the old and hello to the new. Now just a disclaimer before I get flamed for this take, I am in no way predicting and Embiid for Beal trade, I am just fantasizing Ben Simmons in an open court with one of the NBA’s best scorers alongside him. But I will ask, Elton Brand, if you ever read this please consider my proposal. Sometimes it might not feel like the right thing to trade away one of the best players in the NBA, but success in the NBA is quickly shifting away from having a talented big man as your best player towards always having five guys on the court who can create a shot.